Nonviolent Communication and Social Change – 2

This is the second post in my ponderings on Nonviolent Communication and Social Change. Last time, I talked about some of the dangers of social change work. I believe it is NVC consciousness that makes the difference. When we come from a place that everyone’s needs matter, change will inevitably happen. When our enemies’ needs are as important as our own, peace will follow. When we accept how beautiful the world is, we will care for it.  This is very different from using NVC to fight for social change. 

In contrast to the ‘power-over’ mentality, a sense of ‘we know best’, NVC instead brings care to check with everyone. What are all the needs? What strategies will meet them? AND we may need to keep doing this work! There’s an intention to put all the needs on the table and to stay in dialogue. There is something at the heart of NVC about letting go of the outcome. We are not seeking to impose a particular kind of change, or wanting to shape the world to match our vision of it.

I was reflecting with Marshall Rosenberg about domination systems (schools, churches, governments). How it landed with me is that when the system dominates us, we lose capacity to make our own choices. This mentality creeps in when whenever we hold on to doing things the way we have always done them, for instance. NVC calls us to stay alert so we’re not just following orders. Keep checking – is this still serving me/us/humanity? 

Stay true to you!

I once saw Marshall decline to join in a circle that stood to hold hands. When asked about this, he said it was always good to practise not conforming. I invite us all to become more aware of power-over mentality, and to practise not conforming.

What to do

So, the questions to ask yourself might be:

  • Am I coming from a needs-based place? Am I willing to put all the needs on the table, with them all mattering equally?
  • Am I willing to include everyone’s needs, even those of people I judge to be enemies and/or on the other side of a debate?
  • Am I intending to work with others, ensuring everyone’s voices are heard?
  • Am I open to keep checking with others that their needs are being met?
  • Am I open to other views of how the world could be?
  • Am I open to different ways that we could get there? 
  • Do I have a sense of choice about my involvement in the work?

Nonviolent Communication and Social Change: 1

This is about Nonviolent Communication and social change. It was always part of what Marshall talked about – using NVC as a way to support social change. It was important to him, and he was never as clear about it as I would have liked him to be. Now, though, I’ve reached a point where I’m glad he didn’t fill in the gaps. I think it’s dangerous territory for one person to define what is meant by ‘social change’.

Are you starting with judgements?

If we think that the world needs to change, it is easy for judgements to creep in. ‘This is terrible – we need to change it.’  Already there are two judgements. Firstly, there is an analysis that something is terrible or wrong. Secondly, the ‘change’ that is envisaged may be a specific strategy based on a political view. Even as we make a judgement that change is required, we may be imposing a political world-view on others, perhaps without even realising it. Certainly our cultural bias will creep in.

Instead- what is moving you? What are you seeing? Are you horrified and longing for peace? or Are you hopeless and longing for inspiration?
As you come together

Whole movements are built on ‘doing good for the world’. We all have a strong psychological drive to be seen to be ‘good’, and a similarly strong drive to be tribal. So it’s seductive for us to join movements that are ‘doing good’. I see a danger in being unaware of what’s driving us and not understanding the ‘power-over’ dynamic we’re using. I was first alerted to this danger by a friend who worked for an NGO in the Pacific islands. She described organisations parachuting in to build schools – a good thing, surely? – which then didn’t always support the local society and economy in the long run. Provided with a very different education to that of their parents, children left school without a full grasp of their own culture, and often left the islands.

How much judgement is there in the phrases we hear regularly? ‘The world is in a terrible state’, ‘These are unprecedented times’ and so on. Is this the whole picture? There’s plenty of research to show, for instance, that the number of conflicts in the world is decreasing. Closer to home, a family was recently bereaved in my neighbourhood. From my window, I saw the stream of visitors offering help and support. I heard ‘thank you’ and ‘take care’, over and over.  The world isn’t always terrible. Be careful not to be pulled into the story, to become scared. In fear, we become more tribal and this leads to polarisation.

We can very easily move to ‘othering’ in our attempts to build something together: We are better then those people who do nothing. Or We know the best way to be in the world- if only everyone learnt Nonviolent Communication!

What to do

Be alert not to be pulled into ‘groupthink’ (of ‘doing good’) rather than thinking for ourselves.  Jonathan Haidt explored the groupish gene. Not a bad thing- but be aware! It’s important to notice when we’re convinced that we are fighting a good fight. We’re hardwired to seek validation from groups and be conscious of the danger this brings. We are so desperate to belong that we tend to lose ourselves and our discernment.

There been a lot in today’s blog about what to avoid. Next time, I’ll explore more about how NVC can make a positive difference in social change, and provide some more questions so you can check with yourself about your own (and others’) motivations.

How to practise Nonviolent Communication

This month, it’s twenty years since I discovered NVC. My awareness of this has led me into  reflective mode. I’ve been thinking of all the things I’ve learnt, and the joys and challenges  of NVC and how to practise Nonviolent Communication? One challenge I’ve been pondering is the tendency, in learning NVC, towards  perfectionism. We often want to be immediately perfect. This desire inhibits and suffocates practice, the practice on which increased fluency depends. As the aphorism says, ‘Perfect is the enemy of good’.* 

I’m curious about where this perfectionism comes from. Is it school, with its focus on  competition and assessment? Or is it even deeper in the Western psyche? The concept of a lifelong practice seems far more prominent and respected in other cultures. Here, it seems  that we are either good at something… or we’re not. We are intolerant of the process of  learning.  

I continue to have harsh self-talk, the sort that says I’m not good enough. I’m so used to it that I don’t usually notice. It’s been a shock, these last few weeks, to be more aware that it’s still there – after all these years practising self-compassion in NVC. How I talk to myself  is in stark contrast to the compassion I have for other learners. I often say to people,  frustrated that their NVC goes out of the window at home, that it’s the hardest to practice  with those we’re closest to, simply because these relationships matter so much to us. I  remind them that practising NVC must include compassion for ourselves…of course! 

Even more kindness?

I’m struck by the kindness of the coaching app I use for running. It encourages me each  small step of the way: ‘Congratulations! You’ve made it out of the door in your running  shoes’. This is how I’d like us all to treat ourselves when practising NVC. Celebrate any step  forward, steps of any size – don’t even measure. Provide ourselves with gentleness,  acceptance and kindness: ‘hurrah’ for that deep breath we took before responding, ‘yay’  for that empathy guess.  

Some days, I think I know nothing about NVC. What is NVC? It’s picking myself up, trying  again. As Marshall said, it’s enough to become progressively less stupid. What a gift  learning is! Einstein said that once you stop learning, you start dying. So how about we  embrace life and learning, reminding ourselves that NVC is a practice not a destination?  Let’s go slow, enjoy the journey and celebrate growth however it shows up. 

How much more compassion could you bring to yourself as you practise?

*Attributed to Voltaire 


This is Shona Cameron’s blog, written in collaboration Rebecca Kail. 

Rebecca says: I’m assisting  Shona to get her thoughts onto paper more regularly. This encourages my understanding of the depths of NVC, and reminds me to keep practising. I did my foundation training with Liz  Kingsnorth in 2016 and I’m now in the early stages of the certification path. I’m based in  Elgin, in the north of Scotland, and hoping to spread the word about NVC in this part of the  world. Marshall visited nearby Findhorn to provide training some years ago and I’m hugely  disappointed that this was before I’d even heard of NVC! I would have loved to have  experienced NVC as he embodied it.


Photos by Afif Ramdhasuma on Unsplash


by Matthew Ball on Unsplash

Why we call this Nonviolent Communication – 2

Why we call this Nonviolent Communication

Can you even imagine the complete absence in you of the intention to inflict violence? Last time I wrote of how nonviolence is so much bigger than ‘not violent’. Today I’ll say why I think that matters within NVC.

Seeing NVC as ‘not violent’ often promotes a culture of trying to do something – to be kind, to be compassionate, to avoid violence and so on. When we can’t keep it up from sheer determination and willpower, we judge ourselves. In the trying there’s a tyranny, a litany of ‘shoulds’ that we inflict upon ourselves. Is it even possible or desirable to try in this way? I think not.

Marshall advised instead listening to ourselves with compassion, accepting all of ourselves. Be nonviolent to everything, not just the nice things. If you are angry and grumpy, be angry and grumpy. Welcome the darkness in ourselves and in others; welcome the people and things that challenge us. That is why listening to jackals is so important within NVC. Our judgements are part of life and they tell us what’s important to us. They connect us to a part of ourselves. They help us live according to our values.   

imagine we can live from our values of compassion

In showing a way for us to accept all of ourselves, NVC is accessible for everyone. It isn’t only for those who are nice, kind and compassionate. Nonviolence is a lifelong process of gradually stepping into a different worldview, a transformed state of mind. It’s a willingness to get up each day, recognise that we’ve messed up, and start afresh.

And here we come to a current challenge within NVC, which I will talk about next time: if NVC is for everyone, why does it seem to appeal more to those on the political left? What is getting in the way of including those with more conservative or right wing perspectives? And, more generally, how do we have conversations with people with very different political views? 

Why we call this Nonviolent Communication – 1

Why we call this Nonviolent Communication
‘But I’m not violent,’ people say, assuming NVC is not for them and instead is for those who shout, threaten and fight. So why do we use this term if it creates a barrier? Surely that’s the last thing we’d want to do! It doesn’t help that in English, we tend to hear it as ‘not violent’ as if it involves simply avoiding physical violence. And that is very far from what Marshall intended…so Why do we call this Nonviolent Communication? Marshall Rosenberg was very clear: he wanted to honour the tradition of radical nonviolence and those who espoused it, such as Martin Luther King and Gandhi. ‘Nonviolence’ is a single word with no hyphen, a specific thing. It is a translation of the term ‘ahimsa’, which Gandhi borrowed from writers of ancient Indian texts. These writers wrote of the near God-like state of being in which a person is so connected to their compassionate nature that they cannot even imagine doing harm. They considered their fellow humans too puny to understand this concept, so, instead of creating a new term, they took the word for the deliberate infliction of violence (‘himsa’) and used the prefix ‘a’ to create its opposite. ‘Ahimsa’ – the complete absence of intention to inflict violence.  So, ‘nonviolence’ is a translation of something that is not really the thing itself. It points to something that we don’t have words for… yet. In following the tradition of ahimsa/nonviolence, Marshall aimed to develop a method of communication that allows us to access that state of being where to do harm is unthinkable. He believed that this was our true nature, that what is needed to is to ‘get out of our own way’ by taking responsibility for our own feelings and needs. Buddhists might call this ‘the Buddha nature’, Christians, ‘the mind of Christ’, others might describe it as ‘being in the flow of life’. Whatever the term, when we are in that state, all our actions contribute to our lives and others’ – we can’t help it.  All of this is so much bigger than ‘not violent’ and I think that’s important for NVC. In the next episode, I’ll say why.

Meet the Nonviolent Communication Trainers

As I’ve travelled the world learning and sharing Nonviolent Communication, I’ve met some inspiring people. I wanted to know more about them! Meet the Nonviolent Communication Trainer, I’ve been interviewing them.

All of the interviews are available for members of Words are Windows and as a member you get the chance to join live too, and ask your questions.

I love questions!

I have collated some of the clips here for you to see. What makes Nonviolent Communication trainers tick! Maybe we are getting some idea?

In May 2022 we met Magiari Diaz Diaz from Venezuala. She inspired us with stories of her life and capacity to take NVC into the heart to conflicts.

Last summer, it was very moving to spend time talking to Clare Palmer from the UK, about living with a terminal illness and how NVC has supported her.

More recently we met David Weinstock from the US, who talked us through some of his work with somatic experiencing and NVC. We even got the chance to practice together.


More of the clips can be found here.


If you’d like to learn more about Meet the Nonviolent Communication Trainer and Words are Windows you can find about it here. Maybe you have a trainer you’d like me to interview?

NVC Practice Days

Nonviolent Communication : Practice Days

Time to reflect and build skills in Nonviolent Communication 

10 am- 430pm

27th May, 22nd July, 30th Sept and 25th Nov 2023

Want to achieve your goal of learning Nonviolent Communication?

After 20 years I can say: It requires practice and support.

Join others in an online community of Nonviolent Communication practitioners for a day of practice. These days have been designed to support you to keep your attention on doing things a bit differently. Instead of reacting- listening, instead of hiding finding your power and instead of self criticism move into self compassion…and do it in your own way at your own pace.


(All times UK +1 hour for CET)

10 am First Round of Check-in with Shona-What do you want to practise? Do you need Shona’s support?

From here: Form groups or work on your own

or Deeper coaching from Shona to help you get clear on what you want to practise- if required

Otherwise- go and get on with practising: on your own or form groups,

11 am Second round of coaching with Shona (if needed)
12-1 Your time- take a break/ have a walk etc

1 pm Midway Check in with Shona, more coaching as needed

2 pm- 4pm  Practise- on your own or with others work on exercises, share ideas, journal or watch videos- you chose.

4 pm- Harvesting (Check out) Share what you’ve been up to and next steps.

430 pm Close

These days are part of the membership of Words are Windows. This is a way of getting input very regularly, to build your practice. With coaching support from Shona.

More details here


1. Can I come and go?


2. I want support with a particular piece of Nonviolent Communication when do i come?

Be sure to come at 11 to get coaching support from Shona and others. 

3. I don’t know what I want to do??

Come at 10 am for support to work out this first part.

4. I want people to practise with can I bring a friend

Come at 10 am to meet others who may be working on something – you can do it together- if your friend is not a member of Words are Windows remind them that the first month is free!

5. I just want to do my own thing, can I come?

Yes! Absolutely, the zoom room will be there for you if you need anything but you can drop in and say hi and get on with your practice for the day.

6. I want to share something I learnt with another trainer or in another class, can I do that?

Yes- just let Shona know 48 hours before and the tech things can be sorted for you to do that if needed and we will find people in the first hour.

7. How do I join?

Follow the link to the Mighty Network where these days PLUS Empathy Breakfast, Journaling Space, Regular Meet the Trainer Events and more happen. 

Deepening Your Empathic Listening Skills

Two-Day Training: Saturday 3rd +  Sunday 4th December, 2022

Deepening Your Empathic Listening Skills

with Nonviolent Communication Trainer and Assessor Shona Cameron

Montessori children’s centre “Montijn” Koningstraat 5-k 6641 KS Beuningen, The Netherlands

Practising and integrating Nonviolent Communication to keep empathy and compassion in mind and empower authentic communication.

  • Increasing our skills of empathy and authenticity
  • Grow our skills: everyone can get better at listening- even those of us who have been exploring and learning how to do it for years
  • What Empathy is and isn’t
  • How it cements relationships and builds trust

These two days will be experiential, fun and deep.

This training is being hosted and organised by Leon who is a candidate of Shona’s on the path to Certification in Nonviolent Communication. More Details on Certification Here

Joining information via Leon’s website 

Come and join other Nonviolent Communication enthusiasts and candidates to explore Empathy

Shona learnt my watching Marshall Rosenberg listen over many hours and days in his presence. This skill is especially precious to her and she is always eager to pass what she has learnt on.

Take your time to understand. Don’t just do something, be there.  M Rosenberday

When to Express or When to Listen?

When to Express and When to Listen?

Free online Workshop

My friend and colleague died on the 30th of August. To honour him and his love for NVC. This online offer is an activity I learnt from him.

We will explore shifting the decision-making in communication away from the brain: to discern, and listen closely to what the intelligence in our bodies is telling us- Listen or Express?

Some experience in NVC is required.

Questions? ask me

Saturday 17th September 

3pm UK time/ 4pm CET

90 mins 

Zoom Link sent on registration

Remembering Robert Kržišnik​

In Robert's words- “For me it’s all about connection: from self-connection, through healing wounded parts of ourselves and embracing our whole being, to connect with others on a deeply sincere and vulnerable level. It’s about entering this experience of human existence fully, to manifest connection with the Whole, with the flow of Life.”

rumi quote that field

To learn more about Robert and his work and to buy a course he had just released visit Robert’s website.

Looking forward to seeing you,

and learning with you on Saturday.


Feeling Numb?

an orange

Sometimes it’s hard to know what we are feeling. Have you noticed feeling numb? Even when emotions may be high or others talk about their feelings? I’ve talked many times about how I started exploring the inner world of my own feelings with “I feel numb”. A kind of emotional numbness? I had sense something was going on… but what…? When I checked I had no clue, like a connection wasn’t there.

I actually believe it’s impossible to feel nothing and we can all start somewhere. For me “I feel numb” was the start.

When I connected to the numb- which the simple act of turning my attention to the numbness was all it took. Something shifted. (Sidenote: In my years of working with others I find that most people tend to try to make this inner connection work overcomplicated. If this seems simple, that’s because it is, I’m wary of anything in psychology that is overly complex).

As I got curious my numbness had an edge, a colour even. It was grey and square and it sat in my body like a square.

With this came something more to engage with – in fact something more to form a relationship with. I chose to have this relationship be a compassionate one. Welcoming, warm and accepting. I was feeling something- even though my rational brain was sceptical and trying to tell me this was weird. Ah- these thoughts prompted some feelings…. wariness, disbelief… my attention enjoyed exploring these feelings. Again with compassion.

Rumi quote about The Dark Thought

I stuck with it, checking in and asking myself how do I feel? A new awareness arose over time. The consequence… the depression I had lived with for months started to lift… turns out numbness was what I needed to tune into into to offer compassion to myself. to really listen to myself.

A turning point – no longer feeling ONLY numb!

One day I found myself peeling an orange and I tuned into my feelings. The day had so far been dampened down by grey fog and yet there were moments of sunshine, sensations in my body I would call gratitude and delight as I peeled the orange at my kitchen counter. It was enough for me to notice I was no longer living as a depressed person in those moments, I was living moment to moment with my feelings as they moved.

Let’s end with a poem- a gem!

Wendy Cope poem 'The Orange'

If you are feeling numb…I suggest starting with “I feel numb”, feel it, get curious and see where that takes you. It;s so easy to dismiss it and look for ‘real feelings!


I really enjoy Daniel Siegel’s work and in particular his very readable book Mindsight, each chapter explores cases he has worked with and how people have worked with their inner world.